IBA Miinshtuk-Wiinebek
Waskaganish, Québec
Site Summary
QC163 Latitude
51.821° N
79.144° W
0 - 50 m
3,492.00 km²
Other urban & industrial areas, Estuarine waters, Salt & brackish marshes, Boreal coniferous forest, Open sea, Scrub, Fens, transition mires & springs, Freshwater marshes & swamps, Rivers, Streams
Land Use:
Nature conservation and research, Fisheries/aquaculture, Hunting, Tourism/recreation, Urban/industrial/transport
Potential or ongoing Threats:
Habitat effects - fishing and harvesting aquatic resources, Dams and water management/use, Other ecosystem modifications, Invasive alien species
IBA Criteria:
Conservation status:
Restricted access for IBA coordinators
Login name: Password:


View in mobile

Site Description
Rupert Bay is situated on the south eastern part of James Bay, in Northern Quebec, about 30 km east of the Ontario Boundary. The Bay and its islands and coast are within the traditional territory of the Cree Nation of Waskaganish. The community of Waskaganish, formerly called Fort Rupert, is situated at the mouth of the Rupert River and is the only point of access into the Bay. Boatswain Bay is just to the north of the point of land that marks the northern entry into Rupert Bay. At 30 x 50 km, Charlton Island is the largest island in south-eastern James Bay, reaching an elevation of 50 m and sitting approximately 30 kilometres northwest of the mouth of Rupert Bay. The Strutton Islands are about 12 kilometres to the north-east of Charlton Island.

Rupert Bay has a great diversity of aquatic habitats of varying salinities. The shoreline of the Bay is a mix of silt and sand with a very slight and shallow inclination that permits colonization from aquatic plants. Cabbage Willows Bay on the southwest side has a vast littoral zone of complex wetlands including humid prairie, bog, and open fen, as does Boatswain Bay just to the north and east of the mouth of Rupert Bay. Near the mouth of the Bay, the waters and islands become part of the territory of the Eeyou Marine Region. Camps from families from Waskaganish Cree Nation are along the entire coast and on the larger islands. Charlton Island and the Strutton Islands form a marine section of the IBA. Composed of large vegetated sand deposits, Charlton hosts a multitude of small lakes and wetlands, many occupied and maintained by beaver. The Strutton islands and the other islands are rocky with sand dunes and similar vegetation.

The east coast of James Bay is recognized as an important migratory corridor used by northern breeding birds. The extensive coastal marshes of Rupert Bay constitute one of the most important feeding areas for waterfowl in Quebec, including Brant, Canada Goose, Northern Pintail and Green-winged Teal.

Coastal marshes and tidal flats of Rupert Bay and marine islands in Rupert and James Bay are important stops for thousands of shorebirds, with an estimated 100,000 individuals passing through during the fall migration season. Rupert Bay, Boatswain Bay, and the islands can concentrate significant populations of many species including Greater Yellowlegs, White-rumped Sandpiper, Hudsonian Godwit, Semipalmated Plover, Red Knot, and Whimbrel.

Rupert Bay hosts at least seven federally-listed birds: Red Knot, Peregrine Falcon, Short-eared Owl, Yellow Rail, Common Nighthawk, Olive-sided Flycatcher, and a disjunct breeding population of Horned Grebe. The population of Yellow Rail in the Rupert Bay marshes is estimated at 180 individuals, perhaps the most important known nesting site of the species anywhere at more than 1 percent of the global population. Other species of interest breeding in the IBA include the largest populations of Nelson's Sparrow and Le Conte's Sparrow in Quebec. Moreover, it is the only known nesting location of Marbled Godwit in the province. Little Gull is regularly observed in the IBA, with a high count of 14 in 2014.

IBA Criteria
SpeciesT | A | I Links Date Season Number G C N
Brant 2002 FA 3,000
Little Gull 2002 - 2018 SU 2 - 14
Rusty Blackbird 2016 SU 70
Semipalmated Plover 2017 FA 3,136
Yellow Rail 2002 SU 77
Note: species shown in bold indicate that the maximum number exceeds at least one of the IBA thresholds (sub-regional, regional or global). The site may still not qualify for that level of IBA if the maximum number reflects an exceptional or historical occurrence.
Conservation Issues
There are no major industrial threats identified as of 2018. However, in the past 40 years, 25% of the shoreline has been lost or degraded, particularly near the mouths of major rivers. The partial diversion of the Rupert River for the production of hydro-electricity has reduced the river flow substantially, while increasing the flow of the La Grande River to the North. These changes have modified the hydrology of the Bay and the entire eastern coastal zone of James Bay. The disappearance of the major eelgrass beds (habitat for fish and waterfowl) along the James Bay Coast is also affecting the ecology of the region. Climate change is accelerating and impacting the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems of the region. Rapidly expanding species such as the Double-crested Cormorant are causing concern in local populations.

Conservation and management of the area and its resources are the joint responsibility of the Cree Trappers’ Association (CTA), the Cree Nation of Waskaganish, and the Eeyou Marine Region Wildlife Board. These institutions require more capacity to better understand and adapt to the large-scale ecological changes ongoing in the region.

The Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment, Wildlife and Parks of Quebec has proposed the creation of three wildlife reserves in or near the IBA: the proposed Waskaganish Biodiversity Reserve along the Pontax River and watershed, the proposed Peninsula of Ministikawatin Biodiversity Reserve that includes Cabbage Willows, and the proposed Boatswain Bay Biodiversity Reserve. Currently Boatswain Bay itself is a National Migratory Bird Sanctuary, protected through Canada Wildlife Act.

The IBA Program is an international conservation initiative coordinated by BirdLife International. The Canadian co-partners for the IBA Program are Birds Canada and Nature Canada.
   © Birds Canada